Press Release – Twenty-six winners awarded in the 2020 International Women’s Day Women of Wadadli Awards

Directorate of Gender Affairs, March 9th 2020

[St. John’s, Antigua] –– Last evening (March 8th 2020) the Directorate of Gender Affairs (DoGA) within the Ministry of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth, and Gender Affairs honoured 25 women and one private-sector agency for their outstanding service to the nation of Antigua & Barbuda at the Women of Wadadli Awards Gala.

The event, held at the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort, was the first national award ceremony of its kind designed to specifically highlight women’s contributions to national development and promoting gender equality.

DoGA Executive Director, Farmala Jacobs, said that this year’s celebration of International Women’s Day is especially significant and that the Woman of Wadadli Awards aimed to recognize the unsung heroes among us.

“This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration & Platform for Action. Women have made and continue to make remarkable contributions to the development of Antigua and Barbuda. These contributions can often be overlooked so we decided to spotlight the work of women in this year’s International Women’s Day activity.”

Adopted in 1995 in Beijing China, the Beijing Declaration & Platform for Action outlines twelve (12) critical areas of concern including women’s education, political participation, healthcare, and the girl child, and is considered the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls globally.

The awards were distributed in three (3) categories. The Woman of Wadadli Awards were presented to women of at least 30 years of age who have made exceptional contributions to their specific field of interest and the empowerment of women and girls nationally.

The Minister of Gender Affairs Woman to Watch Award was given to a woman under age 30 making significant progress in her profession, and the Dame Gwendolyn Tonge Lifetime Legacy Award was given to a woman over 55 years of age who has made significant contributions to national development and the promotion of gender equality throughout her lifetime.

An additional award, the Prime Minister’s Corporate Citizen Award, was granted to a private sector agency that promotes gender equality through its policies and programmes.

The selection committee selected the following list of winners from a field of approximately 100 nominations.

Woman of Wadadli Awards

Agriculture– Novella Payne
Banking & Finance – Dawn Soleyn
Business, Industry, & Commerce – Valarie Hodge
Community Changemaker – Barbara Arindell
Culinary Arts – Coleen Simpson
Culture– Heather Doram, MFA, GCM
Economic Development – Roberta Williams
Education– Joann Boulos Callias
Environmental Activism – Andrea Otto
Fashion– Noreen Phillips
Fine Arts– Zahra Airall
Human Rights Activism – Dr. Cleon Athill
Healthcare– Dr. Jillia Bird
Law – E. Ann Henry, QC

Literature– Joanne C. Hillhouse

Media & Communications – Mickel Brann
Music & Entertainment – Marion Byron
Political Leadership – Dr. Jacqui Quinn
Religion– Kai Davis
Science & Technology – Mako Williams
Sports- Renee-Edwards Ambrose
Tourism- Vashti Ramsey Casimir
Trade Unionism – Nathalie Payne
Minister of Gender Affairs Woman to Watch Award- Shawnisha Hector
Dame Gwendolyn Tonge Lifetime Legacy Award- E. Ann Henry, QC
Prime Minister’s Corporate Citizen Award- A.S. Bryden & Sons

In her presentation at the ceremony, Honourable Minister of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth, and Gender Affairs, Samantha Marshall, recognized the awardees as activists in their own right, noting that Civil Society Activism is essential to good governance and to achieving the goal of gender equality. “Today… we celebrate civil society as equal partners [with the government]. We need your activism, we need your partnership, we need your voices to keep us accountable, and we need your actions to help propel us forward.”

Prime Minister, Gaston Browne was also present to present to Corporate Citizen Award.

The Woman of Wadadli Awards Gala was sponsored in part by the Caribbean Union Bank (CUB). CUB’s General Manager, Karen Richardson noted the importance of promoting women’s empowerment in the banking sector to sustainable development. “Small businesses, are the drivers of the economy and women are increasingly becoming entrepreneurs. As a local institution, Caribbean Union Bank is pleased to offer financing options to these businesses and we are also especially pleased to partner with the Directorate of Gender Affairs on the Women of Wadadli Awards,” she said.

The business categories were sponsored by the Antigua and Barbuda Employers Federation (ABEF). The President of the ABEF, Sherrie-Ann Brazier assisted with the distribution of the awards for the following five (5) categories; Banking and Finance, Business, Industry and Commerce, Culinary Arts, Tourism and Trade Unionism.
Recipient of the Dame Gwendolyn Tonge Lifetime Legacy Award, E. Ann Henry QC offered a response on behalf of the awardees. In her remarks, she expressed gratitude to the Ministry of Social Transformation and the Directorate of Gender Affairs for the recognition of women. She also reminded those present that while “One woman can make a difference, together we can rock this world.”

The featured speaker Amina Doherty congratulated all awardees for their hard work and dedication to improving the lives of women and girls.

The year 2020 also marks 40 years since the founding of the Women’s desk, the agency that ultimately became The Directorate of Gender Affairs. Two members of the organisation’s staff, Mrs. Sarathine Mayers, and Mrs. Keren Isaac were awarded for over 30 years of service to the department.

Blog Updates (11/01/19)

Blogger on Books 2019 has begun with a Storm.

CREATIVE SPACE has not but I hold out hope for its return – I’ve even been receiving suggestions re things to cover since the start of 2019, but to continue the Antigua and Barbuda arts and culture series is seeking sponsors. Businesses (operating in Antigua and Barbuda) are invited to sponsor a post, boosting local art and culture while boosting your brand. Posts are syndicated to to reach thousands more after its original posting on Jhohadli.

Another series on the blog, this one a limited series, is She’s Royal. In which I offer up some royal women outside of the two (or three) usual (usually European) options Hollywood prefers.

There’s a new Reading Room and Gallery (the 32nd installment in that series) over on the Wadadli Pen blog.

While you’re there, check out the in memoriam for Caribbean writers we lost in 2018.

To Be Messy is Human

In the movie Friends with Money, the Frances McDormand character was quite unlikeable…everyone in the movie thought so, every critic I read said so…and yet …her frustration at the person jumping the line, been there. But her calling out rude people for being rude (admittedly with great and increasing stridency) had friends and critics alike trotting out the C-word…no not that one, the one likely to have you prescribed mood altering medications…preferably by a professional.

From Fatal Attraction to Gone Girl to just about every episode of Snapped, there’s a part of us, if we’re honest, that …hopes we’d make better choices…but, on some level, understands…not the actions (poor bunny) but the emotions. Doubt it? Think back to every gripe session with your girlfriends. Now, yes, it’s a helluva leap from frustrated to homicidal (seriously, don’t make that leap) but feeling shafted, feeling betrayed, feeling frustrated, being messy as bleep, who can’t relate to that? It’s okay, you don’t have to admit it …don’t cry out loud.

Many reviewers of Oh Gad! even or perhaps especially the ones who like the book call out main character Nikki for her messiness. She’s emotionally distant; she carries grudges from childhood against one parent who is dead, and another parent who has moved on; she breaks up with a lover she doesn’t love enough, using his infidelity as a loophole instead of owning up to her part in the break-up; she falls for someone any sensible woman could have seen for what he was – or so several readers have said after the fact, and no I’m not about to call them on hindsight being 20/20 because we don’t know anyone out here loving the wrong man or maybe just the fact that he gives good love

… nah that’s only in fiction (and really great love songs); she gripes and moans about her misfortunes, a contrast to her blunter (brutally blunt) sister who just gets on with it, because, really, life didn’t promise it’d be fair or smooth.

Nikki is also someone though who grew up feeling emotionally isolated because her father was distant and her mother was miles away on an island in the Caribbean – and I’ve conversed with enough daughters who have been shipped off for a better life to know that the reasons might be noble, a better life and what not, to know that often, to the child it still feels like abandonment. And I know women older than Nikki who still haven’t gotten over it.

I watch her struggle to let people in and, sure, she frustrates me but I also know that trust can be a fragile thing…and that this business of who we love and why can be complicated (and often without discernable rhyme or reason)…and that sometimes we don’t know the real deal when we see it.  To be messy is human.

I say this to say that I understand Nikki, and Selena (yeah, she’s in line for a smacking by many a reader-account, too), in the way that I do some of those other unlikeable women in fiction. Maybe like many a reader I want to smack them but I sometimes want to smack myself too and I think if more people were honest with themselves, their frustrations at the self-sabotaging behavior they see in the less-than-perfect woman walking around in their skin – her bad choices in love, her failure to let go of things etc etc – we might admit that part of the frustration characters like Nikki, Selena, and other unlikeable women inspire is just a wee bit of projection. Just a wee bit?


Okay, maybe, maybe not (you know you best)…maybe this is just the defense of Nikki I promised I’d never write. Yeah, tell yourself this is just about another movie/book where the psycho bitch trope had your skin itching, Joanne. I’m messy enough (and honest about my messiness) to admit that my reasons might be complicated though.

And I say where is it written that women have to be good girls all the time – never admitting their neuroses, never acknowledging their fears and failures, never stumbling over nothing but their own bad decisions, never giving rein to their anger or frustration or feelings of betrayal, never giving themselves the luxury of being human? Where is it written that only men get to be messy in life and in fiction?

Other interesting reading on unlikeable women in fiction here here here …and other places, no doubt.

New Video! For Women, in Tribute to Nina Simone

I love it when Antigua-name in (good) t’ings, and this For Women Collective is a good thing. Check them out (NEW VIDEO ALERT)

For Women 2 For Women 1For Women 2bYou know, when I wrote Sexy Sadie, I had no specific plan for her. Then I saw this call for submissions on one of the book blogs I follow. I submitted her because she was the only story I had at the time that remotely fit the idea of a woman boldly claiming…it felt right and I was thrilled that she was selected (and well placed in the Sweet Thing section of the book, structured to capture the natures of the Four Women in Nina’s classic song).

Nina Simone is one of my favourite artistes and her Four Women, one of my maybe top 5 from her discography (I know, I’m hardly unique there). But it felt all kinds of special to have Sexy Sadie of Antigua selected for inclusion in a collection honouring this formidable woman and artiste. I hope she would approve but then she’d probably give me a look for desiring anyone’s approval, even hers. Because if we know anything about Nina when it comes to her art, it’s that she was, as we say in Antigua, doncareahdam. Which is not to say that she didn’t care (she cared about a lot) but that she had something to say, she had her own distinct way of saying and being, and you were just going to have to deal with her on her terms. Or at least, so she seems to me when I listen to her music or youtube her performances.

 She was baaaaad.


I have had an open invitation to perform at the many collective appearances; we’re all kept in the loop.For Women 3 But it hasn’t happened yet.

I seem drawn to these arts movements driven by women – can’t help thinking back to my involvement in the Women of Antigua productions: VMon2012And can’t help feeling buzzed after watching this video…happy to see Antigua’s name in the mix For Women 5 For Women 6and considering the possibility of participating in (or at least attending) future performances, one in particularFor Women 4… there must be a travel grant or fellowship (preferably both) out there for an Antiguan and Barbudan writer looking to connect with the Collective. Right?